Links & Contents I Liked 304

Hi all,

This is quite a substantial #globaldev review-and I wish there was more positive news to include.

Saudi Arabia & UAE collaborate with Sudan on mercenaries for Yemen; the appalling state of refugees on Nauru; UN, data & looming elections in DRC; child soldiers in the Central African Republic; bride trafficking in Myanmar; child marriage in Nepal; trauma healing in South Sudan; Maasai people visit museum in Oxford; an American entrepreneur wants to 'fix' something in Rwanda; reporting NGO work in media & research; why a movement in Lebanon failed; the quest to find successful blockchain projects; education, mobile technology & more challenges for girls & women; participatory video in rural Nepal; impossible questions when local & expat staff are evacuated from a humanitarian crisis; the environmental impact of Canada's mining industry.

Plus: Reflections on 'leaning in', new publications on youth employment in Africa, dependency theory & the use of Twitter for MOOCs.


New from aidnography

Dear ICRC: We need to talk about Nas Daily & “the most undiscovered country”

Maybe a I am bit more sensitized as an academic who does communication for development as a job, but the mixture of ‘exploration’, ‘tourism’ and ‘aid work’ is usually not the best starting point to promote a professional global development organization.
Sending someone from the global North to ‘discover’ Papua New Guinea rubs me the wrong way right from the start of the 5 minute video.
Development news
Saudi Arabia’s Blood Pact With a Genocidal Strongman

But the UAE and Saudis weren’t the only ones to make a deal with the devil—so too did the United States. “There’s not a person at the CIA station in Khartoum who doesn’t know that Bashir and his inner circle are world class kleptocrats,” the former intelligence officer with whom I spoke said. “But you know, this is all about terrorism and Iran. So when the Saudis made a pact with Bashir, we looked the other way.” Yemen expert Michael Horton is even more outspoken: “It’s not a case of we should know better,” he says. “It’s that we know better and do nothing.”
Mark Perry for the American Conservative-not a typical source for my link review content...but this is a sad, yet insightful piece on the power games behind the suffering of people in Yemen.

Indefinite Despair: Mental Health Consequences on Nauru

The data shows that the mental health suffering on Nauru is among the worst MSF has ever seen, including in projects providing care for victims of torture.
Among the 208 refugees and asylum seekers MSF treated in Nauru, 124 patients (60%) had suicidal thoughts and 63 patients (30%) attempted suicide. Children as young as 9 were found to have suicidal thoughts, committed acts of self-harm or attempted suicide.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of MSF’s 208 refugee and asylum seeker patients were diagnosed with moderate or severe depression. The second highest morbidity was anxiety disorder (25%), followed by post-traumatic stress disorder (18%).
MSF on Australia's appalling treatment of refugees in Nauru.

Aid groups accuse U.N. of manipulating data ahead of Congo polls

"We are not going to exaggerate figures to please NGOs who are looking for funding," he said.
Aid agencies said downplaying the number of people fleeing violence would impact their ability to help millions.
While violence has decreased in some regions allowing for people to return home, it has increased in other places - such as Ituri and North Kivu provinces - over the past year, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
"Globally the displacement problem in DRC has remained widespread and in parts of the country very dramatic," said UNHCR spokesman Andreas Kirchhof.
"We don't see that there is an enormous improvement in many areas over the past months. In many regions it has even deteriorated.
Nellie Peyton for Thomson Reuters Foundation News with a reminder that numbers, no matter how accurate they are, will always be contentious and political and now 'big data' tool can fix that.

Freed Central African child soldiers could end up returning to the battlefield

If and when children are reunified with their families, there is still no guarantee they won’t be recruited again. In such an impoverished country, Naili says youth are incentivized to join armed groups by the promise of “getting food, making some money, receiving a form of protection by the group itself and accessing an improved social status.”
Malnutrition in CAR is escalating, according to UNICEF. “It’s worse than anything I’ve ever seen,” says Harriet Dwyer, a UNICEF staff member who’s worked in northeastern Nigeria for 10 months, and recently returned to South Sudan – two other places near famine. With more than 43,000 Central African children expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in 2019, armed groups will become a more appealing option for many.
Girls are perhaps most in need of reintegration support. They are often stigmatized and rejected by their families because of the sexual violence they experience while under the control of armed groups. If they are recruited a second time, the chances of them entering a reintegration program drop dramatically.
Miranda Sauders for the Defense Post with an update from the Central African Republic.

You Should Be Worrying about the Woman Shortage

Human Rights Watch looked at one of those consequences for a report forthcoming in 2019 focused on bride-trafficking from Myanmar to China. In Myanmar’s Kachin and northern Shan states, bordering China, long-standing conflict escalated in recent years, displacing over 100,000 people. Traffickers prey on vulnerable women and girls, offering jobs in, and transport to, China. Then they sell them, for around $3,000 to $13,000, to Chinese families struggling to find brides for their sons. Once purchased, women and girls are typically locked in a room and raped repeatedly, with the goal of getting them pregnant quickly so they can provide a baby for the family. After giving birth, some are allowed to escape—but forced to leave their children behind.
Heather Barr for Human Rights Watch with more bad news for girls and women-this time from Myanmar and China.

Dowries, education and girl brides – the perverse incentives perpetuating child marriage in Nepal

Increasingly, slavery eradication activists argue that child marriages should be considered a form of modern slavery when certain conditions apply. These include a lack of consent to enter the marriage, an inability to leave safely, subjection to physical threats and emotional control, and exploitation for sexual or labour purposes. Young children are unlikely to give informed consent, and may be pressured by parents or other family members to enter marriage. They are less able to flee. Although not all marriages between minors that involve dowries or bride prices should be seen as modern slavery, marriage negotiations that focus on financial transactions between families have a higher risk of commodifying children and putting them in servile positions.
Pauline Oosterhoff for IDS on work to curb child marriage in Nepal.

Healing trauma in South Sudan through mental health programmes
We Shall Have Peace, the recent VR documentary produced by Al Jazeera’s Contrast media studio, explores South Sudan through the lens of trauma and healing. Watch how three South Sudanese are working for a better future by confronting their pasts.
Joi Lee & Viktorija Mickute for Al-Jazeera introduce an interesting new documentary.

Hey, that's our stuff: Maasai tribespeople tackle Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum
Procter tells me that the Pitt Rivers is a good example of a museum working hard to “rethink the role, power and status of museums”, and Van Broekhoven is refreshingly forthright. Fluent in the language of decolonial studies, she admits that the model of originating communities visiting for a week to talk about their customs is not sufficient and that the power dynamic between participants should always be carefully considered. “There are times [in these exchanges] when you think, ‘What are we doing here? Are we decolonising or are we neo-colonising?’” she says. “But that’s why it’s so important to think through the power balances in these relationships. It should certainly never be tokenistic. Decolonising really needs to be a process and as it deeply questions the institutional practices it will often be painful.”
Will the Maasai be able to facilitate the return of sacred objects? Van Broekhoven tells me over email that “in principle”, and provided they find funding, the museum is ready to “learn together how we might envision new ways of redress”. The words are carefully chosen. Nangiria, ever the diplomat, suggests an alternative solution in one of our conversations: inviting elders to perform a spiritual ceremony that will “disconnect” the objects from their cultural function, allowing the Maasai to actively donate them to the museum. The museum will wait to hear from the elders to “jointly decide” on the next steps in the partnership.
Yohann Koshy for the Guardian with a very interesting case study about the complexities of 'decolonizing' museum collections-and ways forward to create meaningful exchanges on the topic.

It’s Africa’s Quiet Killer. This Entrepreneur Says He Has a Low-Cost Fix.
More than four decades have passed since Mr. Reynolds embarked on what he portrays as an accidental life as an entrepreneur, an outgrowth of his fascination with mountaineering. He dropped out of college to start Marmot, the outdoor gear company named for the burrowing rodent. There, he profited by protecting Volvo-driving, chardonnay-sipping weekend warriors against the menacing elements of Aspen. Now, he is trying to build a business centered on customers for whom turning on a light switch is a radical act of upward mobility.
Peter S. Goodman for the New York Times. When an American entrepreneur promises a 'fix', talks pellet stoves & wants to make money you know that we have reached peak 'development'...

Can the World Bank Redeem Itself?

But while money certainly matters, the evidence suggests that development outcomes are determined more by factors like state capacity and national policies, and crucially, a supportive global environment. Rising trade protectionism, tighter immigration policies, and a lack of action on climate change by the world’s biggest economic players – particularly the US – thus pose serious threats to development, which a little extra money for the World Bank cannot offset. The ends do not justify the means: money may not matter that much, while ideas matter immensely in the broader fight against poverty
Devesh Kapur & Arvind Subramanian for Project Syndicate think she can...

“Global Development? We Have Reached a Cul-De-Sac”

Development is about human dignity in a much wider sense and about sustainable future perspectives. For human dignity, you need to provide good health services, you need to provide education and you need to provide housing. All those things are integral parts, but they are not enough. We need other values and we must promote them. Development and human dignity would require articulating your views freely without being repressed and without being prosecuted. That is also part of human dignity.
Christiane Kliemann talks to Henning Melber for EADI about 'development' and organizational challenges for development research.

A few NGOs are getting a lot of bad press. What’s the overall track record?

Even with these limitations, our findings suggest that the NGO balance sheet tips more toward good than bad. Media outlets tend to focus on extreme cases of abuse, neglect or mismanagement in NGO programs. But according to our research on the many projects that don’t get media coverage but do make it into the pages of academic journals, these disappointments are not representative cases. Instead, most interventions we studied provide small, favorable benefits to the communities in which NGOs work.
Jennifer N. Brass, Rachel Sullivan Robinson & Allison Schnable for Washington Post's Monkey Cage with interesting research findings on how NGO projects are represented in academic literature versus media representations. Academia focus more on nuances, more on 'boring' small changes, media need a 'story' which is often triggered by a negative example.

How to lose momentum in five steps: why did Lebanon’s You Stink movement fail?

But what went wrong with ‘You Stink’? Why did they lose momentum? Why did You Stink attract so many people initially, yet, lose support within a few months? Why didn’t they achieve what they wanted to achieve?
Well, if you’re aiming to create a losing social movement make sure to follow the 5 ground rules that ‘You Stink’ has followed:
Youmna Cham for LSE International Development on why a promising social movement failed-and what broader lessons we can learn about building momentum for change in repressive societies.

Blockchain for International Development: Using a Learning Agenda to Address Knowledge Gaps

We found a proliferation of press releases, white papers, and persuasively written articles. However, we found no documentation or evidence of the results blockchain was purported to have achieved in these claims. We also did not find lessons learned or practical insights, as are available for other technologies in development.
We fared no better when we reached out directly to several blockchain firms, via email, phone, and in person. Not one was willing to share data on program results, MERL processes, or adaptive management for potential scale-up. Despite all the hype about how blockchain will bring unheralded transparency to processes and operations in low-trust environments, the industry is itself opaque. From this, we determined the lack of evidence supporting value claims of blockchain in the international development space is a critical gap for potential adopters.
John Burg, Christine Murphy & Jean Paul Pétraud for MERL Tech with the *shocking revelation* that blockchain is much more hype than substance...

Women will be left behind by mobile education—just like everything else

It’s not the device that’s the challenge—it’s systemic gender and educational issues that any tech will need to take on to succeed. When women in Nigeria were asked why they didn’t own a mobile phone, 40% said the barrier wasn’t money, but literacy. This creates a digital chicken-and-the-egg scenario, where women need mobile technology to gain access to an education, but they can’t use said technology unless they’ve already been educated.
To help solve this issue, we need to look to traditional school systems.
Meighan Stone for Quartz with a broader picture of women, technology and the barriers for a 'mobile revolution'.

We Can’t “Technology” Our Way Out Of Education Challenges

These challenges don’t mean that we should entirely write off education technology. Its use may not be what distinguishes the world’s best schools or school systems, but innovations that reduce teachers’ admin burden and improve lessons, or help students practice and build knowledge, are core to successful modern schools.
When applied correctly to a specific set of problems, technology has proven to be a useful tool that can have positive impact. But it must be accompanied by an honest discussion about what pedagogy actually works.
We can’t disrupt our way out of some simple facts: We need better teachers, curricula and accountability. We can achieve this by making entry to the profession more competitive and improving training; by African countries adopting, and holding schools accountable knowledge-rich curricula with international expectations that focus on foundational skills and knowledge. Technology can play a supporting role, but even in the 21st century, learning to read remains more important than learning to code.
Jamie Martin for Bright Magazine with a balanced review of how schools need more than just more or better technology to educate children (not just in Africa, of course...).

Participatory videos for community development. Lessons from the Nepalese Himalayan Mountains

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is especially the use of narrative elements, testimonies and good practice examples from local families that enhanced the persuasive power of the videos. Another lesson is that the videos are unlikely to unfold their full potential if used as standalone resources. Instead, they should be embedded in existing training and community eventsand blended with discussions and/or practical tasks. Perhaps the videos’ greatest value is that they promote the participation of groups, such as females, older and illiterate people, in learning and community events from which they are usually excluded. It was particularly illiterate women who provided a highly positive feedback.
Christoph Pimmer, Urs Gröhbiel & Alex Zahnd for SDC Clan.
To be honest, it looked a bit strange at first to see three white guys in suits writing about participatory video in rural Nepal, but I always appreciate SDC's openness to blog about work in progress publicly.

Impossible Decisions

No one can be fully prepared to lead a base through evacuation in a rapid onset emergency. For those who have, you may remember the frustration in finding a carefully developed evacuation plan was not as developed as you had envisioned (at least I hope I’m not the only one). What had been the worst-case scenario on your risk assessment yesterday was the reality today. The road you could run on yesterday is now a no man’s land. All the missed details in planning are now gaping holes in the sinking ship that is your life. You’re forced to make critical decisions with no information and deal with a micromanaging HQ on the other side of the world.
Whereas the day before you espoused the principle of humanity, today you are making cold calculated decisions. Whereas the day before everyone in the base was one team, the current circumstances force you to categorize people as expatriates and nationals.
What I can’t reconcile is how quickly the humanitarian principles are discounted when it comes to the categorization of expatriates and national staff. In transitioning careers from military to humanitarian, I sought out a more idealistic way of living, but find my current role requires the same cold and calculated decision-making process for the sake of the “big picture”. As my career moves into more senior roles, I struggle to retain the same attitude of idealism which lead me to the humanitarian sector.
Adam Tousley for Missing in the Mission with some great, honest reflections on what 'expats vs. local staff' means in an emergency or evacuation situation. More humanitarians like Adam need to blog (again)!

Our digital lives

I was a Sheryl Sandberg superfan. Then her “Lean In” advice failed me.

My feminist thinking about women and workplaces is now in pretty direct opposition to Sandberg’s Lean In message. I believe telling mothers to raise their hands and try harder in the open sea of hostility we face in the workplace is like handing a rubber ducky to someone hit by a tsunami. I think it also inadvertently encourages us to internalize our own discrimination, leading us to blame ourselves for getting passed over for raises, eased out of jobs, not getting called for job interviews, and being denied promotions.
I now believe the greatest lie of Lean In is its underlying message that most companies and bosses are ultimately benevolent, that hard work is rewarded, that if women shed the straitjacket of self-doubt, a meritocratic world awaits us. My own life, and my research and reporting, along with interacting with hundreds of mothers in the past two years, has convinced me this is untrue.
Katherine Goldstein for Vox reflects on her 'Lean In' journey and the pressure of American capitalism that still keeps women disempowered...

Youth Employment and the Private Sector in Africa

The articles here have been authored by young African scholars from the Matasa Fellows Network, convened by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in collaboration with Mastercard Foundation. These early-career academics from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe were selected to consider the role that could be played by the formal private sector in job creation in Africa. Case studies come from their respective countries. While some aspects of the youth employment challenge are common to all six countries, the local contexts and situations are unique and sectoral.
The latest issue of the open access IDS Bulletin.

Big course small talk: twitter and MOOCs — a systematic review of research designs 2011–2017
By mapping the research using a systematic review methodology it is shown that there is a lack of qualitative data on how Twitter is used by learners and teachers in MOOCs. Moreover, a number of methodological gaps exist in published quantitative survey research at the interface between Twitter and MOOCs, including issues in the trustworthy reporting of results and full consideration of tweet and tweet meta-data collection.
Eamon Costello, Mark Brown, Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl & Jingjing Zhang with an open access article in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education.


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